Global Scrabble Update


Reason intern Mike Riggs notes that Hasbro has quashed the Scrabulous menace. But will no one stop the state-backed Senegalese scrabble traffickers?

Senegal is Scrabble-mad. Street vendors all over Dakar hawk the board game and now the West African nation is the proud host of the French language Scrabble world championships.

It is one of the first things newcomers to the Senegalese capital notice with the ubiquitous street vendors who sell everything from washcloths to entire sets of china. Oddly, one of their most commonly sold items are bootleg Scrabble games, a testament to the game's popularity.

In Senegal, Scrabble is a source of national pride and the West African country has racked up nine world championship titles since 2000. One of the former champions, Ndongo Matar Sylla, is now one of president Abdoulaye Wade's close advisors.

The 37th championship even has its own official song composed by Senegalese singer Pape Diouf that proclaims "Senegal loves scrabble" and boasts that it became world champion "ahead of some 30 other countries".

This former French colony is proud of its Scrabble prowess and promotes the game in schools. Surprisingly for such a Scrabble-mad nation, the literacy rate is only 41 percent, according to World Bank figures, and most inhabitants consider Wolof rather than French their first language.

"In Africa, Scrabble is considered as a real sports discipline while in Europe, it's seen as a simple game and the government is not really interested," said Patrice Jeanneret of Switzerland, president of the International Francophone Scrabble Federation FISF.

"Here, everybody goes to school at six-years-old and Scrabble is promoted to help with developing their French and their grammar," Sega Diallo, an international Scrabble judge and part of the championship organizing committee, told AFP.

How long will it take for someone to make the connection between illicit word play and global terror?

Via Chris Blattman.

NEXT: Putting the "Blunt" in Blunt

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Scrabble in French has to be a nightmare. How do they deal with having 20 vowels instead of 5? And what about the C with the worm hanging from it?

  2. I’d guess they just ignore those, Occam. An excellent way of promoting literacy in poor countries, though.

  3. The french alphabet is the same as the english one. The accents are like pronunciation guidelines. I wish english had those.

  4. if the goal is to teach French, how can they just ignore such an integral part of the language?

  5. Does “DMCA” count as a word? Probably not in Senegal.

  6. Sort-of on the subject, the Russian Republic of Calmykia is run by a mad millionare dictator who makes chess a mandatory school subject and had the government pay for a chess city, even though calmykia is impoverished. This guy is also the president of the world chess organization.

    All this makes me ask: Since when were board games a political issue? Not that it’s any less annoying to have board games as a political issue than football, but does make it harder to caricturize board-gamers as stupid dolts, especially ones who are scrabble champs.

  7. Countdown to slavery!

    Given that Reason appears to be endorsing IP theft and has approvingly mentioned other topics, how long until they go for broke?

    In off-topic news, I didn’t know BHO said this.

  8. Offtopic wacko trivia – 10,000 people did die in that tornado. It happened in the 57th state of Hawaii, you know, the one the Japanese dropped that bomb on.

    Remember, Burack is the smarter of the two!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.